At least twice a week, while making lunches, I fantasize about buying a microwave for my kids' classrooms. Or at least for two of them: the logistics for the high schooler who moves from class to class would be ridiculous. Plus he'd probably be embarrassed, since pretty much everything I do is embarrassing now.
Of course, you can't just buy a microwave for one classroom. So would it be a microwave for all kids in the school? Can you imagine the line up? That leaves the alternative for buying many microwaves for the whole school population to use, which is financially prohibitive, really. Plus, you know some kid would microwave their spoon and cause some sort of injury that would result in a lawsuit. And so my microwave dream evaporates, like steam rising off of reheated soup. :)
"What about a thermos?" you may be asking yourself. Well, yes, that's the alternative. I do send thermoses, of course. But despite the labour intensive process of boiling the water to heat up the thermoses, heating up the food to scalding and getting the lid on before any of that heat can escape, it's not quite the same. I open up thermoses at the end of the day to find abandoned pasta or soup, those last few bites that just weren't hot enough. That never happens with microwaved food.
I recently discovered the joy of turning stereotypical hot food into cold-food lunch awesomeness. I'm talking about taco salad. Whenever I make tacos we always have some of the meat filling leftover, so why not use it for lunches the next day? Now you could heat it up and put it in the thermos, but it's actually really good thrown in a cold salad. It's one of my favourite things to eat for lunch at work.
I like to send the various components separate, so the cheese doesn't get all soggy and lettuce doesn't get all taco-meaty. I have these multi-compartment containers so I can put torn up lettuce in one spot, with any kind of veggies I have on hand thrown in. Then the shredded cheese goes in its own compartment and, in the third, the leftover taco meat (or, if you're vegetarian, you could put chickpeas or some other kind of bean in there). I put some ranch dressing in another container and, if we have any, a few nacho chips to crunch up over the whole mess at lunch time. It takes 30 seconds to throw all the components together at lunch time and then you're eating taco salad. No boiling water required.
Speaking of tacos, do you use the little spice package from the store to make yours? I used to and then I discovered this recipe in a milk calendar over 10 years ago and it has been my go-to every since. I find it milder then the spice mix and my kids love it.
Make your own taco filling
1 lb ground beef (I actually use ground turkey for tacos - leaner and still delicious)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (if you don't have garlic, leave it out. It tastes fine without)
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 cup milk
1/3 cup tomato paste (or ketchup. I often use ketchup because I always forget to buy tomato paste)
salt and pepper to taste
Brown the meat. Add the onion, garlic and spices. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is tender. Stir in the milk and tomato paste (or ketchup!). Then you just let it simmer for 5 or 10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.